Now that everyone is out of business cards and has had enough time to check in to their locative media apps, I think we can begin to make sense of the social and technological deluge that was the South by Southwest Interactive festival. After being deep in a web development hole for the past few months, what I took away from the conference was a rejuvenation of critical, big-picture questioning, a reminder of just how drastically technology is contouring contemporary society and culture and that, ultimately, it is still in our hands to determine the overall shape of things to come. Although a late arrival and scheduling conflicts prevented me from hearing everyone I'd have liked to have heard (Douglas Rushkoff, Gary Vaynerchuk, among many others), I was able to take in most of the keynote speakers and the panels whose subject had some impact or connection to the arts (which were few). Here is a synopsis of the projects, presentations, and people that resonated with me the most.
I would like to consider a notion that I have felt was intuitively true but have never explored in depth: that the 8-bit or "low-res" aesthetic of much contemporary electronic art can be thought of as a form of digital materialism. By employing the phrase "digital materialism," I draw upon a specific term that has circulated within the sphere of avant-garde filmmaking from the 1970s onward. In this context, materialism describes a sensibility, most explicitly theorized in the writings of London-based filmmaker Peter Gidal, in which the physical materials of film technology are made visible within the work itself, and thereby become decisive components of a reflexively cinematic but predominantly non-narrative experience. Materialism reverses the usual Hollywood practice of hiding the mode of production so as not to disrupt the suspension of disbelief necessary to enter into a staged, fictional world.
-- EXCERPT FROM "THE MATTER OF ELECTRONICS" BY ED HALTER
[Originally published in the catalog for the exhibition PLAYLIST at LABoral in Gijón, Spain curated by Domenico Quaranta, available in pdf form here. Subsequently republished to Vague Terrain above.]
I fabricated a selection of "sculptures" designed by anonymous users of Google SketchUp, a free 3-D modeling program. Designed as a simple and easy-to-use version of CAD software, SketchUp has garnered a growing following of amateur designers who use it to model virtually everything from common household items to fantasy architectural designs. These digital designs can be uploaded to a freely-accessible database to “share” with other SketchUp users in their own projects.
Plotted on newsprint with cyan, magenta, and yellow edding 1380 brush-pens. 9" x 9".
Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) Technical Coordinator